Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 11 December 2016

IFA loses members and funds in pay controversy fallout

Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30

IFA chairman Jer Bergin pointed out the fall in prices paid to farmers for their produce might also have had a knock-on impact on the levies. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
IFA chairman Jer Bergin pointed out the fall in prices paid to farmers for their produce might also have had a knock-on impact on the levies. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke

Up to 4,500 farmers have left the IFA over the organisation's pay controversy.

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The farm body has also confirmed it has lost over €560,000 in levies paid on farm produce since becoming mired in the greatest crisis in its history.

In the continuing fallout from former general secretary of the IFA Pat Smith earning almost €1m over two years, the farm body revealed 528 farmers have definitely cancelled their membership. And a further 4,000 farmers have let their membership lapse, leaving the IFA with just over 75,500 fully paid up members.

Mr Smith resigned from the organisation after 25 years, while then president Eddie Downey stood down as the IFA became mired in acrimony.

The IFA confirmed income from levies has slumped by 12pc. The voluntary levy is based on farm sales of cattle, milk and grain through more than 200 co-ops, processors, marts and merchants and works out at 15c for every €100 in sales. Known as the European Involvement Fund (EIF) levies, the payments remain an important money earner for the farm lobby group - delivering €4.7m to the IFA coffers or a third of total income in 2015.

Currently, the levies are often provided to the IFA with scant details on their source.

The IFA has confirmed it will meet with all levy partners to discuss with them steps to strengthen governance and transparency in the organisation, look at ways to rebuild the collection rates and to seek auditor confirmation from the monies collected from farmers for the IFA.

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The IFA confirmed some farmers had signalled they were cancelling their membership but were staying on to ensure they had a right to vote in next month's elections for the new IFA president, to maintain their €75 FBD voucher and to keep their representation on issues.

The levies issue has remained a controversial topic at the IFA hustings in the run-up to next month's elections for the new president. Galway candidate Joe Healy said the levies must be examined in detail by the next administration and, if they are to be retained, then the manner of their collection has to be "open and transparent" and must not compromise the association's freedom to lobby forcefully on farmers' behalf.

Kerry's Flor McCarthy said "total transparency" is needed on the levies and he believes an alternative funding model to the levies must be considered, while Laois farmer Henry Burns has told farmers a proper discussion is needed on the levies.

The IFA said it will take some time to paint an accurate picture on the impact of the levy income but up to the end of this month they estimate it will fall by 12pc, including around 300 applications for levy refunds.

The fall in prices paid to farmers for their produce might also have had an impact on the levies, the IFA said.

Irish Independent



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